Tactics Used To Find Golden State Killer Raise Privacy And Legal Questions

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"BANDLAMUDI: They then made a match with DNA collected years ago from crime scenes throughout California where the suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, allegedly committed 12 homicides, more than 45 rapes and more than 100 burglaries between 1976 and 1986. What they didn't initially reveal is how they first pinpointed DeAngelo as a suspect - turns out that was by accessing an online genealogy database. It was an innovative technique for a crime investigation. But since many people upload their own DNA to sites like ancestry.com or 23andMe to find distant cousins or sometimes even estranged parents. So that raised questions about the privacy of those sites and how much access law enforcement has to their own genetic information for use as evidence.

ANDREW MCLAUGHLIN: And so the policy implications of that I think are not clear. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Should we all just assume that at some point through other family members we're effectively going to be exposed to the world through our DNA, or do we want to have tighter privacy protections?

BANDLAMUDI: That's Andrew McLaughlin. He's an online privacy expert and the executive director of the Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale University. He questioned whether the legal ramifications for using DNA like this have been studied enough. Today, a genealogy site called GEDmatch said that it had been told its database had been used to identify the suspect. It's a free, open-source site based in Florida where users can upload their profiles from other sites like 23andMe. But unlike those other sites, GEDmatch is different in that the uploaded information is shared publicly."

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